Maya Harris is Deaf. After a move from New Jersey to Colorado, Maya begins attending a hearing high school. They provide an interpreter and assign student council member Nina to help Maya acclimate to her new surroundings. Nina quickly becomes her friend, but Maya is still the only Deaf student and having Kathleen interpret for her in class elicits plenty of stares from her peers. But when a student named Beau learns ASL (American Sign Language) so he can communicate with Maya, she begins to wonder if hearing school will be so bad after all.
Maya is pretty no nonsense about boys and dating though – she’s focused on college and becoming a respiratory therapist. Her little brother Connor has cystic fibrosis and Maya wants to help others like him. While Maya navigates high school and college applications, her friendship with Nina grows and her feelings toward Beau deepen. Together the three prepare for life after high school and Maya shows them her Deafness isn’t a disadvantage or something to be fixed.
Author Alison Gervais is HoH (Hard of Hearing), making The Silence Between Us a Deaf story told by someone from the Deaf community. Prior to reading this book, I can’t say I’ve ever read or heard of a book with a Deaf lead character…or maybe any Deaf characters?
My own exposure to the Deaf community has been fairly small. I went to college in St. Augustine, Florida, which happens to be home to the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind. Because of the school, many Deaf or Blind adults also lived in St. Augustine since there were resources available to them. At my part-time retail job, one of my coworkers was Deaf and I really enjoyed working with her. She was like Maya, she didn’t let anything hold her back and she made work fun. She’d turn the most mundane tasks into a game. Doing dressing room go-backs together? Whoever can clear their rack the fastest wins!
There was a lot of educational content woven into Maya’s story, too. I had no idea workplaces and schools are obligated to provide interpreters, but this often means Deaf individuals are passed over for opportunities or have plans delayed. I also didn’t know cochlear implants were such a controversial topic in the Deaf community. Maya didn’t want the implants because she liked and accepted herself as Deaf, but some opt to have C.I. surgery because they don’t want to be Deaf. I imagine this also has a great deal with when deafness occurs – if it’s something you’re born with I can understand wanting to hear, but if you lose your hearing later in life maybe you still remember what it was like to hear? I’m sure there are dozens of differing opinions and only the individuals affected know what’s best for them, like Maya.
Rating: 3 / 5 stars